The Hill's Morning Report — Pressure is on Trump, Republicans in Mississippi Senate race

 

 

 

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It’s election day in Mississippi, the site of the final contest of the 2018 midterm cycle.

Republicans will have a majority in the Senate no matter the outcome of the race between Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) and Democrat Mike Espy, but the confirmation battle over Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughDemocratic groups gear up to use abortion rights as attack on GOP in 2020 Murkowski celebrates birthday with electric scooter ride Graham urges Trump not to abandon infrastructure talks with Democrats MORE proved that every vote counts in a deeply polarized upper chamber.

At a Mississippi campaign rally last night in Tupelo, President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats claim victory as Trump gets battered in court Juan Williams: Anti-abortion extremism is on the rise Trump feels squeeze in tax return fight MORE sought to drive that point home, saying Hyde-Smith “stood up to the Democratic smear machine and voted ‘yes’ on Brett Kavanaugh.”

“If you don’t mind, make it not even close … don’t take any chances. A lot of people think we’re going to have a big win, but don’t take any chances … assume you have to vote.” – Trump in Tupelo

The race is closer than it probably should be in a state Trump won easily in 2016. One recent survey found Hyde-Smith with only a 5-point advantage over her challenger.

Hyde-Smith has stumbled through a series of racially-charged controversies, which the president did not go near last night. Democrats are hoping the enthusiasm that helped them flip nearly 40 House seats will continue today and deliver a monumental upset for Espy, who hopes to become the first African-American senator elected in Mississippi since Reconstruction.

The Memo: GOP fears damage in Mississippi.

The Hill: Five things to watch for in the Mississippi runoff election.

With his dual rallies in Tupelo and Biloxi, Miss., last night — Vice President Pence joined him for the second stop of the night — the president gets one final test of his political strength among his base supporters before the 2020 presidential election cycle begins in earnest.

A loss by Hyde-Smith would be perceived as a seismic weakening for Trump and Republicans, so the pressure is on.

Mississippi race by the numbers:

> If Hyde-Smith wins, Republicans will have a 53-47 majority in the Senate, up from 51-49. If Espy wins, the GOP majority would be 52-48. Mississippi would be a huge missed opportunity for Republicans if this year’s majority expanded by just one seat in January, following a campaign cycle in which the Senate map was decidedly in Republicans’ favor. 

> The Nov. 6 election was sent to a runoff because no candidate received 50 percent the last go-round. In that contest, Hyde-Smith took 42 percent, Espy took 41 percent and Republican Chris McDaniel took 17 percent. Hyde-Smith is looking to attract the support of McDaniel voters to return to Washington.

More from campaigns and politics … Democrats make legislative gains over GOP in redistricting battle (The Hill) … What Democrats have learned about taking on Trump in 2020 (Bloomberg) … The five most competitive Senate seats for 2020 (The Hill) … Rep. Beto O’Rourke considers 2020 White House bid as calls grow for him to run (The Washington Post) … The suburbs are changing but not in all the ways liberals hope (The New York Times).

LEADING THE DAY

*** OVERNIGHT UPDATE: Federal prosecutors say Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortPapadopoulos on AG's new powers: 'Trump is now on the offense' Ex-GOP lawmaker says Trump 'illegitimate president,' should be impeached Government moves to seize Manafort's condo in Trump Tower MORE, Trump’s former campaign chairman, violated his plea agreement by making false statements to the FBI and special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump orders more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions Trump: Democrats just want Mueller to testify for a 'do-over' Graham: Mueller investigation a 'political rectal exam' MORE’s office. The government is asking that Manafort, whose sentencing was delayed as he cooperated with the special counsel, be sentenced immediately (The Hill). ***

The Washington Post: Mueller’s team may have lost its most valuable witness.

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CONGRESS: In the House and Senate, migrants seeking asylum in the United States, but backed up on the Mexico side of the southern border, could complicate Democrats’ hopes to win concessions from Trump as part of a spending compromise needed before a Dec. 7 deadline.

The president wants almost $2 billion in this fiscal year for a wall; Democrats say they are willing to fund border security, but without devoting that level of resources to a physical barrier. The must-pass legislation is a magnet for numerous riders and unrelated policy ambitions, further complicating an already tangled December.

“Democrats have become the party of caravans and crime,” Trump said during Monday’s Tupelo rally. “We will not tolerate any attempted assault on our border agents like happened yesterday, or any attempt to destroy federal property, overrun federal authorities, or bring chaos to American soil.”

The president, reacting to clashes at the border between the Border Patrol and some in the migrant caravan, defended the use of tear gas at a port of entry near San Diego after photos showed women and children running for safety.

    First of all, the tear gas is a very minor form of the tear gas itself. It’s very safe. But you really say, why is a parent running up into an area where they know the tear gas is forming? And it’s going to be formed and they’re running up with a child." — Trump

Customs and Border Protection issued a statement that four agents were struck by rocks at the border.

 

 

Reuters: Honduran migrant, clutching two small children, flees tear gas.

The Associated Press: Caravan migrants explore options after Tijuana border clash.

Trump also warned that he would "close the Border permanently if need be" (The Hill).

 

 

The Washington Post: U.S. border officials prepare for additional confrontations with migrants, port closures.

The Hill: Trump’s threat to permanently seal the border, if acted out, would pose economic risks to communities in both countries.

> Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), whose social media megaphone is closely watched, tweeted early Monday: “What if instead of sending 5k troops to the border, we had sent 5k caseworkers to review + process visa applications? In addition to averting moral crisis, it also would‘ve saved enormous amt of resources. But we don’t talk about the financial recklessness of GOP admins, do we?”

 

 

Spotted at Mexican Ambassador Gerónimo Gutiérrez's farewell event at the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington (h/t Rafael Bernal):

Labor Secretary Alex AcostaRene (Alex) Alexander AcostaTop aide to Labor secretary to leave amid friction with White House George Conway slams Trump for calling Biden 'creepy': You 'palled around with Jeffrey Epstein' Melania Trump expands mission of 'Be Best' on its one-year anniversary MORE; House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed RoyceEdward (Ed) Randall RoyceK Street giants scoop up coveted ex-lawmakers Former GOP chairman Royce joins lobbying shop Lawmakers propose banning shark fin trade MORE (R-Calif.) and his wife, Marie Royce, the assistant secretary of State for educational and cultural affairs; U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan; Homeland Security Under Secretary, Office of Strategy, Policy, and Plans James W. McCament; and Landon Loomis, special adviser for the western hemisphere and global economics, Office of Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceWatch live: Pence participates in Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery Mike Pence delivers West Point commencement address Dozens of graduates walk out in protest of Pence address MORE.

Gutiérrez submitted his resignation as requested by incoming Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who will be sworn in Saturday. Pence and White House adviser Ivanka TrumpIvana (Ivanka) Marie TrumpTrump family members will join state visit to UK The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump blows up meeting after Pelosi 'cover up' remarks Trump adviser expected to leave White House, join Juul MORE will be at López Obrador's inauguration in Mexico City.

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House GOP tax bill: Although just weeks away from being in the minority, House Republicans introduced a bundled assortment of proposed tax changes late Monday night, hoping for a last-ditch opportunity to pass changes to the tax code this year that appear unlikely to be taken up by the Senate. As an inducement for bipartisan and bicameral support, however, the package includes temporary tax relief for eligible victims of wildfires, hurricanes and other natural disasters. A vote is expected this week (The Hill).

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House Democratic agenda: Leaders are tapping the brakes on investigations ahead of the start of the new Congress. Democrats, including key committee leaders, want the caucus to focus on administration policies including immigration, rising student loan debt, prescription drug costs and the federal response to hurricane disasters, especially in Puerto Rico. The Democrats’ agenda will solidify over six to eight weeks in the new year (Reuters).

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Pelosi negotiates: Everyone is trying to cut a deal with Rep. Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocrats claim victory as Trump gets battered in court GOP rep criticizes Trump for tweeting Pelosi video America has no time to wait for impeachment MORE (D-Calif.), before the House Democratic Caucus casts votes for leaders on Wednesday. A handful of centrist Democrats in the Problem Solvers Caucus are vowing to oppose her bid for the Speakership unless she agrees to back internal rules changes they favor. And Rep. Seth MoultonSeth Wilbur MoultonDemocratic candidates should counter Trump's foreign policy 2020 Democrats jockey over surging college costs Whip list: Who's clinched a spot in the 2020 Democratic debates MORE (D-Mass.), the ringleader of a group of anti-Pelosi rebels, now wants to negotiate over the No. 2 and No. 3 spots in leadership, a shift in strategy (The Hill). Reps. Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerPelosi, Nadler tangle on impeachment, contempt vote House Democrats seek bipartisan working group on net neutrality Steyer plans impeachment push targeting Democrats over recess MORE (D-Md.) and James Clyburn (D-S.C.), the expected majority leader and majority whip, aren't losing any sleep over this new development.

The Washington Post: Moulton shifts his attention from Pelosi to down-ballot leaders.

Committee slots for Democrats: Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) could potentially lose her junior seat on the Senate Judiciary Committee because Senate Republicans expanded their majority in 2019. Harris used her seat on the powerful Judiciary panel this year to burnish a national image ahead of the 2020 presidential election (The Washington Post).

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

 WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Trump says he intends to follow through on his threat to levy 25 percent tariffs on $2 billion worth of Chinese goods, just days before the president is scheduled to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

It may be a negotiating tactic, but in a Monday interview with The Wall Street Journal, Trump said it is “highly unlikely” that he’d reverse course on the threat of tariffs, which have roiled global markets and provoked a trade war between the U.S. and China.

Trump and Xi will meet Friday at the Group of 20 summit (G-20) in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Investors are hopeful they’ll reach an agreement to avert a trade war, which has added to market uncertainty at a time when many experts are forecasting a global economic slowdown.

The Associated Press: Global trade is at stake as Trump and Xi come face to face.

 

 

It also appears that the president will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G-20 summit. The Kremlin told reporters on Monday that “the meeting is being prepared.”

That encounter would come amid an international outcry after Russia seized three Ukrainian naval ships off the coast of Crimea, opening fire on the vessels and wounding several sailors.

“The United States condemns this aggressive Russian action.  We call on Russia to return to Ukraine its vessels and detained crew members, and to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, extending to its territorial waters.” – Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoGOP rep says intel on Iran is 'credible' Venezuelan government, opposition to meet in Norway for talks O'Rourke: Trump 'provoking' war with Iran by sending troops to Middle East MORE

“We strongly support Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, extending to its territorial waters. We express our deep concern over the incident, which represent a dangerous escalation and violation of international law.” – U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki HaleyNimrata (Nikki) HaleyWill Trump ignore the Constitution and stay in White House beyond his term? Trump taps ex-State spokeswoman Heather Nauert to help oversee White House fellowships Conservatives slam Omar over tweet on Gaza violence MORE

The Associated Press: Kremlin warns of flare-up of hostilities in eastern Ukraine.

Reuters: Ukraine introduces martial law citing threat of Russian invasion.

More from the White House and administration … Trump says he doesn’t believe the federal government’s latest report on climate change (The Associated Press) … 60 percent of voters say they disapprove of the job Trump is doing as president (Gallup) … Trump says he wants to start an international television station to challenge CNN’s global presence (The Hill).

The Morning Report is created by journalists Jonathan Easley jeasley@thehill.com & Alexis Simendinger asimendinger@thehill.com. Suggestions? Tips? We want to hear from you! Share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!

OPINION

Former Justice Antonin Scalia would have applauded the asylum ruling that Trump is raging about, by Gregory J. Wallance, opinion contributor, The Hill. http://bit.ly/2SbATtF

Trump will keep our economy strong, by Madison Gesiotto, opinion contributor, The Hill. http://bit.ly/2DN3stz

WHERE AND WHEN

The House meets at noon.

The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. and resumes consideration of the nomination of Stephen Alexander Vaden to be general counsel of the Department of Agriculture.

The president has lunch with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense James MattisJames Norman MattisTrump defense pick expected to face tense confirmation Trump's nastiest break-ups: A look at the president's most fiery feuds Shanahan orders new restrictions on sharing of military operations with Congress: report MORE. He’ll also meet separately with Pence and House Republican leaders in the Oval Office. This evening, Trump and first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpTrump meets Japan's new emperor in lavish welcome ceremony Earthquake shakes parts of Tokyo before Trump arrival Trump arrives in Japan to kick off 4-day state visit MORE participate in a White House Christmas reception.

Pence heads to Capitol Hill for the Senate Republican policy lunch.

Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinWhy Mueller may be fighting a public hearing on Capitol Hill Jake Tapper fact-checks poster Trump admin created describing Mueller investigation Jeffrey Rosen officially sworn in as deputy attorney general MORE headlines the Justice Department’s American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month event at 2 p.m., joined by Office of Tribal Justice Director Tracy Toulou and the Interior Department Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs John Tahsuda.

The Hill’s newsmaker event "Preparing for a Treatment: Alzheimer's Diagnosis and Care" on Nov. 28 features Sens. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyHillicon Valley: Assange hit with 17 more charges | Facebook removes record 2.2B fake profiles | Senate passes anti-robocall bill | Senators offer bill to help companies remove Huawei equipment Senate passes anti-robocall bill The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi fires back in feud with Trump MORE (D-Mass.) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisThe Hill's Morning Report — After contentious week, Trump heads for Japan Collins offering bill to boost battery research as GOP pushes energy 'innovation' Lawmakers call for investigation after census hired registered sex offender MORE (R-N.C.). Editor-in-Chief Bob Cusack talks with lawmakers and experts about groundbreaking advancements in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. Registration is HERE.

Hill.TV’s “Rising” program, starting at 8 a.m., features interviews about climate change with Andrew Light, a senior fellow at the World Resources Institute, and Monica Medina, the founder and publisher of Our Daily Planet. Conservative commentator Jesse Kelly will also stop by to talk about being banned from Twitter. http://thehill.com/hilltv

ELSEWHERE

> GM: In the most far-reaching shake-up since the company emerged from bankruptcy more than eight years ago, General Motors will shutter three North American assembly plants and two other facilities, while also eliminating 15 percent of its salaried and salaried contract workforce, moves that together will cost an estimated 14,700 jobs. The cuts will land in Michigan, Ohio and Maryland, as well as in Canada. The aim is to focus on electric-battery operated and driverless vehicle designs (NBC News). Trump said he spoke with CEO and Chairwoman Mary Barra and told her to “get back in” Ohio or assign a different product to the Lordstown plant that faces closure.

> Genetics: A Chinese researcher says he altered human DNA in fetuses, later twin girls born this month — a claim that, if true, would be a first for gene editing in humans (The Associated Press). He Jiankui said he gave the twins the ability to resist possible future infection with HIV, the AIDS virus, a trait few humans possess naturally. There is no independent verification of his claim, and he refused to identify the parents or their offspring. Researchers and bioethicists around the world reacted with criticism, skepticism and alarm. More than 100 scientists signed a petition calling for greater oversight of gene editing experiments, which are banned in the United States (The Associated Press).

> Food safety: Consumers can eat some romaine lettuce again, say U.S. officials. They advise shoppers to check labels. The lettuce linked to an E. coli outbreak this month appeared to come from California’s Central Valley region. Lettuce from other regions will soon be labeled. No label? Don’t buy it and don’t eat it, they recommend (The Associated Press).

THE CLOSER

And finally … NASA’s InSight spacecraft survived its suspenseful descent at 12,300 mph through the thin atmosphere of Mars and successfully landed on the planet’s surface on Monday after a six-month journey. Hurdles remain before operations get underway to dig beneath the planet’s surface.

Two tiny satellites, each of which accompanied the lander, allowed NASA to confirm the landing and its location. CubeSats relayed InSight’s signal to Earth, along with a blurry picture of a dusty terrain where the lander — with a 5-foot-9-inch arm — will direct its instruments (Science).

What happens next, assuming the solar panels and mechanics are operating? The robot’s mission is to measure the size of the planet’s core and interior layers, and help determine how seismically active Mars is (National Geographic).